Monday, November 26, 2012

Black bean and brown rice burger

This recipe was the result of left over brown rice and left over black beans from tacos that I had made another night. The black beans on its own are extremely flavorful. The brown rice adds some toothy texture to the burger and the cilantro and scallions provide the freshness. I served it with a corn salad.

These burgers are great even by themselves without the bun with a nice salad on the side. Since they don't have too much binding them they are a little delicate to handle, but the flax seed paste provides some glue. If you like you can try it by increasing the flax seed paste or adding an egg, if it helps to bind better.

Black bean and brown rice burgers

½ cup short grain brown rice
½ cup packed finely chopped cilantro leaves and soft stems
2 cups cooked black beans (Recipe below)
4 thin scallions, finely chopped, both white and green parts
1 tablespoon flax seeds (ground into a fine powder) (OR 1 egg)
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons canola oil + 1 teaspoon canola oil
Shredded Mexican cheese or any cheese that you like
4 sesame seed burger buns
  1. Cook the brown rice as per package instructions. Typically it is 2 cups water to 1 cup rice and it requires about 45 minutes to cook. It is best if you have left over brown rice - then it is a quick assembly.
  2. Cook the black beans as per the recipe below and cool. 
  3. Add the chopped scallions and the cilantro leaves to the rice and beans and mix lightly.
  4. Finally add the water to the flax seed powder and stir to create a thick paste. Add the paste to the burger mixture. 
  5. Heat a large heavy bottomed non-stick skillet with 2 tablespoons canola oil.
  6. In the meantime, oil your palms with 1 teaspoon canola oil and form four to five patties with this mixture. Add the patties to the oil as you make them, to avoid sticking. Cook over medium low heat for about 3 minutes a side.
  7. Serve over burger buns with shredded cheese.
Makes 4 to 5 patties.

Cooked Black beans
1 14oz can of organic black beans
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 teaspoons canola oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoon taco seasoning (I used Trader Joes) or you can make your own. Click here for recipe.
7 oz San Marzano crushed or pureed tomatoes (½ a small can)

1. Heat a 3 qt saucepan over medium low heat with canola oil. When the oil starts to warm up, add the chopped onions, garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook over low heat covered for 10 to 12 minutes stirring occasionally till the mixture is soft and mushy.
2. Drain the can of beans and add it to the onion and garlic mixture. Add 1 ½ teaspoons of taco seasoning, half a can of the crushed tomatoes and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and cook covered over medium low heat for another 10 minutes. By this time, the beans would have been well seasoned and the tomato will be absorbed by the beans. Stir halfway through to ensure that the beans don’t stick to the pan. (I used a non-stick pan but it might still stick since the mixture is not very wet).
3. Allow to cool and serve.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gajar Halwa (Carrot pudding)

Next week is Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. Along with the lights comes the lighting of fire crackers and eating home made sweets. Gajar halwa is one of those sweets that my mom made during Diwali and I wanted to carry on the tradition with a tiny difference - hence made a batch of halwa.

Indian sweets in general are cloyingly sweet for most other palates and I prefer my desserts to be subtly sweet. So, in this version of gajar halwa the sugar content is less than the traditional fare, but the taste is as good. If you like your desserts very sweet, then you can increase the quantity of sugar to suit your taste.

It is an easy recipe, which just requires some patience. Shredded carrots are sauteed in clarified butter and cooked down with milk, cream, half and half (either or a mix of them) and flavored with cardamom seeds and garnished with dried fruits and nuts. The result is delicious. The halwa will last for at least a week refrigerated, but it is best served warm. [The microwave works best for that - just 10 seconds.]


Gajar Halwa

2 lbs organic carrots, peeled and shredded
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon ghee** or clarified butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 green cardamoms - seeds only
2 cups half and half
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup raisins
  1. Heat a large heavy bottomed skillet or dutch oven with 3 tablespoons ghee. Add the shredded carrots and cook over medium heat stirring every couple of minutes for about 10 minutes till the carrots have light brown edges and the raw smell of the carrot disappears.
  2. Add 2 cups and half and half and 1 cup of milk to the carrots and continue to cook till you are left with a wet mixture, but not soupy. This should take about 18 minutes. Please stir the mixture often to ensure that the carrots do not burn at the the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add sugar and the cardamom seeds and cook for another 15 minutes till the mixture is almost dry but not too dry as it will dry up further while it cools.
  4. In the meantime, in a small saute pan, dry roast the almonds over medium heat for about 5 minutes till they are golden, but not burnt. Remove and set aside to cool. Heat 1 teaspoon ghee in the same pan and saute the raisins for  a minute or two.
  5. Finally add the sauteed raisins and the toasted almonds and mix.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes 8 to 10 medium sized  servings

** ghee is available in all Indian grocery stores, on-line link as above or you could make your own. Click here for Recipe.

Turkish okra stew

While okra originated in Africa, it is also very popular in Indian, Southern American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern cuisine.  In India, okra is cooked with lentils and loads of spices in the form of a stew. Caribbean cuisine also has its own version of okra stew and it is an important ingredient of jambalaya a southern american stew. This version of Okra stew is from Turkey. Whole okra is slowly simmered in  a tomato based sauce and finished with lemon juice to give it that tart fresh taste.
I serve it with buttered basmati rice and a yogurt raita.

Turkish Okra Stew

1 lb small or medium sized fresh okra
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped (a little more than a cup)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 to 1 cup water
3/4 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  1. Wash and dry the okra well. Trim the okra stem. Heat a heavy bottom 3 quart dutch oven with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the trimmed okra and cook over medium high heat till the okra gets brown spots all over. Remove from the pot and set aside.
  2. Put the dutch oven back on the stove and add 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion and fry gently until transparent over medium low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 3/4 cup water, sugar, pepper and salt to taste. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the fried okra and the chopped parsley and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes covered till the okra is tender but not mushy.
  5. Pour the lemon juice over the cooked okra and serve warm with buttered rice.

Buttered Rice

1 cup long grain Basmati rice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups boiling water

  1. Wash and soak the rice in cool water for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain the water and set aside.
  2. Heat a heavy bottomed 3 quart dutch oven with unsalted butter. Add the drained rice and saute for a few minutes till the butter is absorbed by the rice and the rice gets a pale golden color.
  3. Add salt and 2 cups of boiling water to the rice. Reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes till all the water is absorbed. Turn off the flame and let the rice sit for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.